**Written by Doug Powers
In 2008, Time said they chose Barack Obama as their Person of the Year because he was full up “hope” to bring America together. Eight years later, Time calls the country the “Divided States of America,” but they make it sound like the fault of somebody who hasn’t even taken office yet:
Who came in second? You guessed it:
Always a bridesmaid!
To ease the pain, Hillary’s going to go around the country thanking some of the average people who supported her have a party with wealthy donors:
Democrats Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are planning a thank-you party next week for those who donated millions to their presidential campaign.
The party at the Plaza Hotel’s Grand Ballroom on Dec. 15 is expected to feature fashion icon Anna Wintour, investor Alan Patricof, hedge fund manager Marc Lasry and more, according to the New York Post’s Page Six.
2020, here she comes! And if that happens, Hillary might already have some competition.
Update: As for Time’s Trump-induced “Divided States of America” nonsense:
One of these maps is 2016, one is 2008 – Tell me again who was elected as president of “Divided States Of America”? pic.twitter.com/E49PFghoS3
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) December 7, 2016
**Written by Doug Powers
President-elect Donald Trump appears focused on domestic policy. He wants to rebuild infrastructure, cut taxes, reduce imports, save jobs, streamline regulation and more. While he seems to have strong views on international issues, he seems to lack “nuance.” He won’t be able to escape foreign controversies, but he could avoid creating his own.
He should follow one overriding principle: stay out of war.
George W. Bush thought differently. Unfortunately, his two conflicts are the gifts that keep on giving—disastrously. The Afghanistan war was necessary, but only its initial phase, targeting Al Qaeda and ousting the Taliban. The following fourteen-plus years of quixotic nation building were a tragic diversion. The invasion of Iraq, with no connection to 9/11 and posing no threat to America, was foolish from the start.
In these two conflicts, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs estimates, almost 6,900 American military personnel have died and another fifty-two thousand have been wounded. Even more U.S. contractors, nearly 7,100, have been killed. Tens of thousands more have been injured. Thousands of allied military personnel and foreign contractors also have become casualties.
It might be hard for Donald Trump to decide what to do. But it shouldn’t be hard for him to decide what not to do: start another war.
These numbers understate the human cost. Many of those wounded suffered, and still suffer, grievously. They would have died in earlier wars and will endure crippling injuries for the rest of their lives. Wrote Neta Crawford of Boston University, “The veterans of these wars suffer from skeletal injury, PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury at rates higher than the veterans of other wars.”
Moreover, hundreds of thousands of civilians have died in the sectarian conflict unleashed by the U.S. invasion in Iraq: estimates start around two hundred thousand and race upward. More than thirty thousand have died in the Afghan war. American drone strikes in Pakistan have killed more than 1,400 civilians. Thousands more civilians have died in Pakistani military operations supported by America. An estimated 7.6 million Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis have been displaced at home or turned into refugees overseas.
Imagine what America would be if Bush had not plunged the nation into two disastrous and unnecessary wars. Imagine if the tens of thousands of Americans had not been killed or injured. Imagine if they were alive and well to serve their families, communities and country. Imagine what they could have accomplished for themselves and contributed to the lives of those around them. The nation would be much richer in human, social and economic terms. While these lives obviously cannot be reclaimed, the president-elect could honor their sacrifice by avoiding any similarly misguided wars in the future.
There’s also the financial cost of Bush’s follies. As of September, figured Crawford in a Watson Institute paper, Washington had spent $4.79 trillion on Afghanistan and Iraq, along with still sizeable but much smaller amounts in Pakistan and Syria. Of course, explained Crawford, “a full accounting of any war’s burdens cannot be placed in columns on a ledger.” Yet by even this limited measure Americans should recoil in horror at the extraordinary waste.
These prodigious expenditures span the spectrum. Much went for combat operations. A substantial amount funded civilian aid and reconstruction, much of it grossly wasted. Some expenditures covered antiterrorism activities at home. Washington paid allies, such as Croatia, Georgia, Jordan and Poland, for their support. Pakistan, too, received much civilian and military assistance, including $22 billion in Coalition Support Funds. Highly indebted Uncle Sam paid interest on the Pentagon’s appropriations.
In addition, wrote Crawford, “any reasonable estimate of the costs of the wars includes the fact that each war entails essentially signing rather large promissory notes to fulfill the US obligations for medical care and support for wounded veterans. These future obligations will total approximately an additional $1 trillion in medical and disability payments and additional administrative burden through 2053.” For instance, an astounding 327,000 veterans of the post-9/11 wars have been diagnosed with brain injuries, and more than seven hundred thousand have been classified as at least 30 percent disabled.
Promiscuous war making also requires a larger military. Thus, greater annual expenditures are required to support a bigger force structure and more weapons. Pay was increased to attract volunteers as unpopular wars reduced the propensity of many young men and women to enlist. Crawford also noted that expenses rose because of “the more complicated medical needs of active duty soldiers injured during their deployments.” Benefits must be provided to additional retirees. Overall, Bush’s misguided wars prompted a large increase in military outlays for this “base budget,” which Barack Obama only began trimming late in his first term, before pushing back up after he plunged America into war against Islamic State. Crawford attributed $733 billion in base budget expenses to Bush’s wars.
Still, Crawford’s $4.79 trillion cost estimate remains too low. It does not include the expense of veterans’ care paid by states and localities. Nor “other costs externalized to military families and Americans more generally,” including “the macro-economic consequences of the wars.”
Nor is future interest expense included. Neither Bush nor Obama used traditional measures to finance their wars—such as higher taxes, sale of war bonds, equivalent spending cuts, or conscription. Thus, the conflicts, wrote Crawford, “are projected to add more than $1 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2023. By 2053, interest costs will be at least $7.9 trillion unless the US changes the way it pays for the wars.” That is, Americans may eventually pay more to finance the wars’ costs than for the wars themselves.
Who predicted anything close to this expense? No one, at least not in the Bush administration. Mitch Daniels, head of the Office of Management and Budget, figured $50 to $60 billion total. Economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was forced out after predicting a war cost of $100 billion to $200 billion. The president he served viewed this estimate as wildly excessive.
In short, the Bush administration lived in a fantasy world as it committed the worst foreign-policy blunder in decades. Trillions of dollars were diverted from other, beneficial uses. And we will continue paying for Bush’s wars for years, if not decades, more.
Donald Trump must take a different course if he wants to solve problems, make deals and strengthen America. He should start by insisting on no more stupid wars. No social engineering, no nation building, no humanitarian crusades, no shaping the international environment. Absent a compelling justification, an extraordinarily serious if not vital interest, he should not loose the dogs of war.
Next, he should end Bush’s stupid wars. President Trump should bring the troops home from Afghanistan immediately. Fifteen years is enough. So long as the Taliban does not host terrorist training camps, Washington can live with a divided Afghanistan stuck in the Dark Ages. It is beyond America’s power to turn Central Asia into a mirror image of America.
And he should draw down U.S. forces in Iraq. The latter has the resources to defeat Islamic State. America can only lose participating in an ongoing sectarian war in which even its allies are adversaries: Shia-dominated Iraqi military, local Sunni tribes, Kurdish peshmerga, Sunni Turkey’s military and Iran-backed Shia militias. Unfortunately, after pushing the Iraqi Humpty Dumpty off of the wall, Washington cannot put him back together again.
It might be hard for Donald Trump to decide what to do. But it shouldn’t be hard for him to decide what not to do: start another war. He is far more likely to succeed if America is at peace. Making that happen would be could be his most important legacy.Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire (Xulon).
Daniel J. Ikenson
President-elect Trump’s choice for commerce secretary ticks all of the traditional boxes. He’s a successful businessman. He has ideas about how to promote U.S. commercial interests. And he shares his boss’s views about international trade.
Of course, those are also good reasons to be wary of Wilbur Ross. His misguided views on trade agreements and the trade deficit, in conjunction with his affinity for protectionism and backroom deal-making, will necessitate our vigilance to protect the economy and free markets from the follies of crony capitalism.
Wilbur Ross has achieved great business success, mostly from acquiring, restructuring, and selling companies. The Harvard MBA’s talent for buying low and selling high is not in doubt. But since it’s not credible to suggest that a billionaire businessman doesn’t know what he’s talking about, understanding international trade and its benefits must require an entirely different set of faculties, which he lacks. How else to explain his positions?
Ross believes trade is a zero-sum game between Team USA and Team China or Team Mexico. Exports are America’s points; imports are the foreign team’s points. The trade account is the scoreboard, and the deficit on that scoreboard means the United States is losing at trade.
Ross’s preference for bilateral agreements betrays an ignorance of the nature of production and trade.
In a recent interview, Ross characterized the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement as a “horrible deal” and elaborated by saying: “There’s trade. There’s sensible trade. And there’s dumb trade. We’ve been doing a lot of dumb trade. And that’s the part that’s going to get fixed.”
Exactly what Ross means by that is unclear, but apparently he believes trade is won or lost at the negotiating table — a place where the U.S. team is habitually outmaneuvered, in his opinion. It is bewildering to Ross that the United States would cede its economic leverage by negotiating with more than one country at a time, empowering the other parties to band together, pool resources, and resist U.S. pressure.
But that’s an inaccurate reflection of the nature of trade negotiations. Each government comes to the table with a set of objectives, along with parameters guiding how far it can go to meet those objectives. Alliances between and among parties form on an issue-by-issue basis, and they tend to be fleeting. As the big dog in almost every negotiation, the United States is usually the most capable of employing these and other tactics to compel parties to agree to its positions.
Ross’s preference for bilateral agreements also betrays an ignorance of the nature of production and trade. Nearly all economists, and nearly all of the economics literature, support the view that the ideal is to have more people and more countries — not fewer — connected in a free-trade area. The economic bases for trade in the first place are specialization and economies of scale. Larger markets afford us a more refined division of labor to exploit our comparative advantages so that we may produce more value among us. And they allow unit production costs to decline as producers increase output and allocate their costs over a wider base of customers.
If those concepts are foreign to Ross, he should at least be able to appreciate that a series of smaller bilateral trade agreements, as opposed to a single regional or multilateral agreement, would place larger cost burdens on traders. If we had eleven bilateral agreements with the TPP countries, each with its own set of rules, the costs of record keeping, inventory management, compliance, and trade diversion would be significantly higher than they would be under a single regional agreement with one set of rules.
Still, his preference for bilateral agreements notwithstanding, Ross heaps praise on the Central America Free Trade Agreement. Ross considers it to be America’s most successful agreement because the United States registers annual trade surpluses with the CAFTA countries. (Side note to Ross: The United States runs a trade surplus with its 20 free-trade-agreement partners in aggregate.) But, contrary to Ross’s views, trade surpluses are neither the objective nor the result of trade policy. They have everything to do with foreign demand for safe, dollar-denominated U.S. assets, and in that sense, the U.S. trade deficit is a seal of relatively good economic health.
In a letter to editor of the Wall Street Journal a few months ago, Ross wrote: “It’s Econ 101 that GDP equals the sum of domestic economic activity plus ‘net exports,’ i.e., exports minus imports. Therefore, when we run massive and chronic trade deficits, it weakens our economy.” Yikes! Ross isn’t the only person who misinterprets the national income identity, but he may be the first commerce secretary to make that misinterpretation his policy North Star.
Of course, Ross was referring to: Y = C + I + G + X – M, the national income identity, which accounts for the disposition of GDP. It says that national output is either (C)onsumed by households; consumed by businesses as (I)nvestment; consumed by (G)overnment as public expenditures; or e(X)ported. Those are the only four channels through which national output is disposed.
What do imports have to do with GDP? Why do we subtract M, which signifies i(M)ports? We subtract M because imports are embedded in the aggregate spending of households, businesses, and governments. If we didn’t subtract M, then GDP would be overstated by the value of spending on imports. But there is no inverse relationship between imports and GDP, as Ross suggests. In fact, there is a strong positive relationship between changes in the trade deficit and changes in GDP.
The dollars that go abroad to purchase foreign goods and services (imports) and foreign assets (outward investment) are matched almost perfectly by dollars coming back to the United States to purchase U.S. goods and services (exports) and U.S. assets (inward investment). Any trade deficit (net outflow of dollars) is matched by an investment surplus (net inflow of dollars). That investment inflow undergirds U.S. investment, production, and job creation. The United States balance of payments has shown trade deficits for 41 straight years — a period during which the size of the U.S. economy tripled in real terms, real manufacturing value added quadrupled, and the number of jobs in the economy almost doubled, outpacing growth in the civilian workforce.
When asked in an interview about whether his prescriptions for trade policy were protectionist, Ross replied that protectionism is a “pejorative term.” Of course, protectionism has been integral to Ross’s business success. In the early 2000s, Ross founded International Steel Group for the purpose of purchasing several legacy steel mills, including Bethlehem, Weirton, and LTV Steel. He conditioned his acquisitions on both the imposition of steel tariffs and the transfer of steel retirees’ legacy costs from the companies’ books to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (i.e., U.S. taxpayers). He sold ISG at a large profit to Arcelor-Mittal within two years.
Likewise, Ross was a prominent advocate of textile quotas, which were important to his turning a profit for International Textile Group, essentially a replica of his steel-industry foray.
As commerce secretary, Ross will be charged with helping U.S. businesses clear some of the hurdles they face abroad. But he will also have administrative oversight — which comes with a lot of discretion (read, potential for abuse) — of the U.S. anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws, two of the most prominent implements in the protectionist tool shed.
From the Ross Commerce Department, expect to see a lot of managed trade arrangements “negotiated” under the threat of punitive tariffs. Let’s be vigilant.Daniel J. Ikenson is the director of the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies.
President-elect Donald Trump has not been shy about the “big problem in this country”: political correctness. Trump has blamed PC for the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (“They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety and above all else,” he tweeted) and the rise of the militant group Islamic State. His voters agreed (indeed, it might even have been the reason for his victory).
It’s not just him. Political correctness has become a major bugaboo of the right in the past decade, a rallying cry against all that has gone wrong with liberalism and America. Conservative writers fill volumes complaining how political correctness stifles free expression and promotes bunk social theories about “power structures” based on patriarchy, race and mass victimhood. Forbes charged that it “stifles freedom of speech.” The Daily Caller has gone so far as to claim that political correctness “kills Americans.”
But conservatives have their own, nationalist version of PC, their own set of rules regulating speech, behavior and acceptable opinions. I call it “patriotic correctness.” It’s a full-throated, un-nuanced, uncompromising defense of American nationalism, history and cherry-picked ideals. Central to its thesis is the belief that nothing in America can’t be fixed by more patriotism enforced by public shaming, boycotts and policies to cut out foreign and non-American influences.
Conservatives use “patriotic correctness” to regulate speech, behavior and acceptable opinions.
Insufficient displays of patriotism among the patriotically correct can result in exclusion from public life and ruined careers. It also restricts honest criticism of failed public policies, diverting blame for things like the war in Iraq to those Americans who didn’t support the war effort enough.
For example, in the aftermath of 9/11 and the run-up to the Iraq War, David Frum labeled dissenters as anti-American. Jonah Goldberg wrote that opponents of the war “can only get passionate about the perfidy of our own president.” Conservative gadfly Robert “Buzz” Patterson went further, calling much of the Democratic Party, Hollywood, big media, college campuses and many other organizations “traitors.” The French government’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq prompted Congress to rename French fries as “freedom fries” in congressional cafeterias, a 21st-century liberty cabbage. When the Dixie Chicks opposed the Iraq War, many stations pulled the group’s music from the air so as not to “trigger” listeners. Fans destroyed Dixie Chicks albums in grotesque public demonstrations. The radio became a safe space.
More recently, 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat and then knelt for the national anthem to protest police brutality. Tomi Lahren, host of “Final Thoughts,” gave an incoherent rant about soldiers dying for Kaepernick’s right to speak so, therefore, he should shut up and stand for the national anthem. Some fans even burned their Kaepernick jerseys in protest. Others said Kaepernick should “get the hell out” if he doesn’t love America. Myths of an NFL rule mandating standing for the anthem, even though no such rule actually exists, were spread to justify the outrage and point to a double standard of enforcement whereby the NFL condones protests against America but players get fined if they wear different-color shoelaces. In such a narrative, patriots are the victims of an elite liberal power structure.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) tweeted that “Kaepernick should think about the service members risking their lives to protect his freedom to be both rich and unpatriotic.” Kaepernick’s microaggression even offended liberal Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said the protest was “dumb and disrespectful,” words she later retracted.
Believing in American exceptionalism means that anything less than chest-thumping jingoism is capitulation. Unionized public employees who can’t be fired are bad at their jobs and are more interested in increasing their own power than fulfilling their public duties — except if they are police or Border Patrol officers, who are unselfishly devoted to their jobs. The crime rate is high and rising, so when facts show that criminality has declined substantially over the decades, the patriotically correct respond with appeals to the bubbled feelings of the common man.
One of the biggest critics of patriotic correctness is National Review writer Jim Geraghty. He responded to outrage over Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, speaking Spanish at home by writing, “What business is it of yours?” and said there is “something bafflingly insecure about our culture if we genuinely feel threatened by foreign languages spoken in the private sphere of the family home.”
Complaining about political correctness is patriotically correct. The patriotically correct must use the non-word “illegals,” or “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” to describe foreigners who broke our immigration laws. Dissenters support “open borders” or “shamnesty” for 30 million illegal alien invaders. The punishment is deportation because “we’re a nation of laws” and they didn’t “get in line,” even though no such line actually exists. Just remember that they are never anti-immigration, only anti-illegal immigration, even when they want to cut legal immigration.
Black Lives Matter is racist because it implies that black lives are more important than other lives, but Blue Lives Matter doesn’t imply that cops’ lives are more important than the rest of ours. Banning Islam or Muslim immigration is a necessary security measure, but homosexuals should not be allowed to get married because it infringes on religious liberty. Transgender people could access women’s restrooms for perverted purposes, but Donald Trump walking in on nude underage girls in dressing rooms before a beauty pageant is just “media bias.”
Terrorism is an “existential threat,” even though the chance of being killed in a terrorist attack is about 1 in 3.2 million a year. Saying the words “radical Islam” when describing terrorism is an important incantation necessary to defeat that threat. When Chobani yogurt founder Hamdi Ulukaya decides to employ refugees in his factories, it’s because of his ties to “globalist corporate figures.” Waving a Mexican flag on U.S. soil means you hate America, but waving a Confederate flag just means you’re proud of your heritage. The phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” needs a trigger warning.
Blaming the liberal or mainstream media and “media bias” is the patriotically correct version of blaming the corporations or capitalism. The patriotically correct notion that they “would rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2,000 people on the faculty of Harvard University” because the former have “common sense” and the “intellectual elites” don’t know anything, despite all the evidence to the contrary, can be sustained only in a total bubble. Poor white Americans are the victims of economic dislocation and globalization beyond their control, while poor blacks and Hispanics are poor because of their failed cultures. The patriotically correct are triggered when they hear strangers speaking in a language other than English. Does that remind you of the PC duty to publicly shame those who use unacceptable language to describe race, gender or whatever other identity is the victim du jour?
The patriotically correct rightly ridicule PC “safe spaces” but promptly retreat to Breitbart or talk radio, where they can have mutually reinforcing homogeneous temper tantrums while complaining about the lack of intellectual diversity on the left. There is no such thing as too much national security, but it’s liberals who want to coddle Americans with a “nanny state.” Those who disagree with the patriotically correct are animated by anti-Americanism, are post-American, or deserve any other of a long list of clunky and vague labels that signal virtue to other members of the patriotic in-group.
Every group has implicit rules against certain opinions, actions and language as well as enforcement mechanisms — and the patriotically correct are no exception. But they are different because they are near-uniformly unaware of how they are hewing to a code of speech and conduct similar to the PC lefties they claim to oppose. The modern form of political correctness on college campuses and the media is social tyranny with manners, while patriotic correctness is tyranny without the manners, and its adherents do not hesitate to use the law to advance their goals. If we have a term to describe this new phenomenon — I nominate patriotic correctness.Alex Nowrasteh is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.